The 32 Greatest Unscripted Movie Scenes

Published 3 years ago by , Updated August 5th, 2014 at 9:19 am, This is a list post.

Heath Ledger as The Joker in The Dark Knight Much to the dismay of screenwriters, movies scripts aren't always set in stone. They are often like living objects constantly evolving during the filming process. Some films, like Jaws and Annie Hall, don't even have a finished script when the cameras start to roll. Actors and actresses are regularly ad libbing, improvising or going off-script while reciting their lines. Sometimes the directors hate it - other times they love it. Occasionally the improved lines become immortalized as some of the most memorable in cinema history. Check out these 32 great unscripted scenes - you may be surprised at how many of your favorite lines were off-the-cuff.

1. Gun vs. Sword

Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) Director - Steven Spielberg While chasing Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) after she's been kidnapped, archaeologist and adventurer Dr. Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) runs into a large sword-wielding bad guy dressed all in black. Instead of fighting him in what would surely be a losing whip versus sword battle, Indy simply pulls out his revolver, puts the man down with one shot and moves on. The original script called for a long sword fight but a day earlier Ford got a severe case of food poisoning and didn't have the energy to film the scene as written. After a discussion with director Steven Spielberg, the scene was changed and became an iconic part of Indiana Jones mythos.

2. Why Male Models?

Ben stiller as Derek Zoolander in ZoolanderZoolander (2001) Director - Ben Stiller In this scene involving former hand model J.P. Prewitt (David Duchovny) and the dimwitted male model Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller), Prewitt - a conspiracy theorist - explains how the fashion industry has been behind every high profile political assassination of the last hundred years. Zoolander asks, "Why male models?" Prewitt answers with a lengthy explanation, after which Zoolander responds again, "Why male models?" Stiller forgot his original line and just repeated his previous line instead. This prompted Duchovny to ad-lib his response "Are you kidding? I just told you like a minute ago." The scene ends up reinforcing the movie's narrative of the brainless male model stereotype and Stiller turned a gaffe into one of the funniest parts of the film.

3. The Cat

Marlon Brando as Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather The Godfather (1972) Director - Francis Ford Coppola Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) is more than the cold-hearted head of a powerful Italian mob family. That trait shows when he sentences a man to be beaten as retaliation for the beating of another man's daughter - all while gently stroking a cat. Thing is, the cat was never part of the original script. Some reports say that Coppola plopped the feline into Brando's lap just before filming began. Other reports say Brando found "il gatto" roaming around the set, picked him and gave him an offer he couldn't refuse (heh).

4. I Don't Care

Tommy Lee Jones as Samuel Gerard in The Fugitive The Fugitive (1993) Director - Andrew Davis In this famous showdown between Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford) - a doctor wrongly accused of murdering his wife - and U.S. Marshal Samuel Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones), Kimble gets the jump on Gerard in the sewers. Instead of shooting the Marshal and making things worse, Kimble pleads his case to him saying, "I didn't kill my wife!" Gerard, with a sober tone and intense look on his face, responds with a simple, but brilliant and ad-libbed, piece of dialog, "I don't care." The line wasn't part of the script but those three words reinforced to Kimble, and audiences, that it didn't matter to Gerard whether the doctor was guilty or innocent of the crimes for which he was accused. He was going to get his man - no matter what.

5. Slow Clapping

Heath Ledger as The Joker in The Dark Knight The Dark Knight (2008) Director - Christopher Nolan As the Joker (Heath Ledger) waits quietly alone in jail after having been arrested by Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman), Mayor Garcia (Nestor Carbonell) shows up to look over Gotham's latest scourge. While there he also promotes Gordon to the position of Commissioner. As the officers in the room applaud the announcement Ledger begins, unscripted, to slowly clap - never changing his facial expression. It was just a simple improvisation but one that was unsettling and darkly brilliant.

6. Spitting Blood

Kurtwood Smith as Clarence Boddicker in Robocop RoboCop (1987) Director - Paul Verhoeven When antagonist Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith) is taken to the police precinct after receiving a solid whooping by RoboCop (Peter Weller), Boddicker spits a bloody glob onto the paperwork of the desk sergeant, followed by the line "Give me my f*ckin' phone call!" Smith and Verhoeven briefly had discussed the unscripted moment before filming the scene but neglected to inform the extras - which was evident by their real and disgusted surprise as the scene unfolded.

7. Necklace Laugh

Richard Gere & Julia Roberts as Edward Lewis & Vivian Ward in Pretty Woman Pretty Woman (1990) Director - Garry Marshall In what became one of the most famous scenes from the film, Edward Lewis (Richard Gere) presents call girl Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts) with a gorgeous and rather expensive diamond necklace. As Roberts reaches out to touch the precious jewels, Gere - in an unscripted playful moment - quickly snaps the box shut genuinely surprising her. Her laugh was so honest, and the scene so good, that Marshall decided to leave it in the film as is.

8. Think Fast!

John Malkovich as himself in Being John Malkovich Being John Malkovich (1999) Director - Spike Jonze Shortly after John Malkovich meets Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) on the side of the road he wanders off mad. As he does, a car passes by with a man leaning out the window. The man throws a can hitting Malkovich square in the back of the head while yelling, "Hey Malkovich! Think Fast!" - causing the Oscar nominated actor to scream out in legitimate pain. Neither the can throwing nor the reaction were scripted but the drunken extra in the car felt the opportunity was too good to pass up. Jonze thought the scene added to the character's frustration and left it in. Instead of being fired, the extra was added to the final cut of the film and given a raise.

9. The Cinderella Story

Bill Murray as Carl Spackler in Caddyshack Caddyshack (1980) Director - Harold Ramis One of the best and most quoted scenes from this film is "The Cinderella Story" where groundskeeper Carl Spackler (Bill Murray) mutters a story to  himself about an unknown golfer winning The Masters. This entire scene was developed by Murray on the spot saying in his 1999 book Cinderella Story: My Life in Golf: "The Cinderella Story was a spur-of-the-moment idea. 'Get me some flowers,' I said. 'Four rows of mums."

10. Most Annoying Sound in the World

Jim Carrey, Mike Starr, & Jeff Daniels as Lloyd Christmas, Joe Mentalino, & Harry Dunne in Dumb & Dumber Dumb and Dumber (1994) Director - Farrelly Brothers There are many scenes in the film that show how moronic and simple-minded best friends Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey) and Harry Dunne (Jeff Daniels) can be but this one showed how annoying they can be on car trips - and it was entirely unscripted. Even hitman Joe Mentalino's (Mike Starr) hissy fit reaction to the scene was unscripted, which makes the scene that much funnier.

11. Know How I Know You're Gay?

Seth Rogen & Paul Rudd as Cal & David in The 40 Year Old Virgin Knocked Up (2007) Director - Judd Apatow Crafting a good and funny insult is one of the hardest things to do but Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd are two of the best - proving it in this scene of put down jokes. This entire exchange between Pete (Rudd) and Ben (Rogen) while in the car was completely ad libbed by the two actors. The scene is only a few seconds long on the final cut but as an extra on the DVD, the scene goes on for over six minutes.

12. Farting Wife

Matt Damon as Will Hunting in Good Will Hunting Good Will Hunting (1997) Director - Gus Van Sant In this scene between therapist Sean Maguire (Robin Williams) and math genius Will Hunting (Matt Damon), Williams proves that comedic-minded actors usually give the best ad libbed scenes. The entire story about Maguire's flatulent spouse was made up on the spot by Williams and not a part of the original script.

13. Delayed Explosion

Heath Ledger as The Joker in The Dark Knight The Dark Knight (2008) Director - Christopher Nolan Originally, the Joker (Heath Ledger) was supposed to walk down the street while the explosion at the hospital began, get on the school bus during the scripted pause, and the bus would drive away while the explosion finished. However, Ledger stopped walking during the pause and in a moment of improvisation began fidgeting with the remote detonator in a very Joker-esque manner - bringing a slight amount of dark humor to what would have just been a serious scene.

14. Game Over Man

Sigourney Weaver & Carrie Henn as Ellen Ripley & Rebecca "Newt" Jorden in Aliens Aliens (1986) Director - James Cameron Chaos and confusion are everywhere after the first attack by the xenomorphs decimate the Space Marines and their drop ship crashes. As the crew tries to get their bearing and fully understand what just happened, Private Hudson (Bill Paxton) - ever the pessimist - laments "That's it man, game over man, game over! What are we going to do now?" The original line didn't include the "game over" part and was ad libbed by Paxton.

15. Party Talk

Bill Murray as Jeff in Tootsie Tootsie (1982) Director - Sydney Pollack During this scene, aspiring playwright Jeff Slater (Bill Murray) was required to appear to be talking throughout the entire party; however, there was no dialog written for the character. As a natural entertainer and comedian, Murray improvised the entire scene.

16. The Line Up

Kevin Pollak, Stephen Baldwin, Benicio Del Toro, Gabriel Byrne & Kevin Spacey as Todd Hockney, Michael McManus, Fred Fenster, Dean Keaton & Roger Kent in The Usual Suspects The Usual Suspects (1995) Director - Bryan Singer Christopher McQuarrie wrote only one line for this scene - "Give me the keys, you f*cking c*cksucker!" - it was up to the individual actors to deliver it however they wanted. McQuarrie actually plays the cop speaking with the suspects and both his line to Fred Fenster (Benicio Del Toro) "In English please?" and Del Toro's reaction were unscripted. According to interviews on the DVD, the laughing during Del Toro's delivery was due to his constant farting while filming - boys will be boys.

17. Come Out to Play

David Patrick Kelly as Luther in The Warriors The Warriors (1979) Director - Walter Hill In this scene, the script called for Luther (David Patrick Kelly) - leader of the vicious New York gang the Rogues - to drive up and provoke rival gang The Warriors to a fight in the streets by clinking bottles together. Kelly spontaneously added the now famous line "Warriors, come out to play!

18. Take the Cannoli

Richard Castellano as Peter Clemenza in The Godfather The Godfather (1972) Director - Francis Ford Coppala Corleone family capo Peter Clemenza (Richard Castellano) orders his henchman Rocco Lampone (Tom Rosqui) to carry out a hit on Paulie Gatto (John Martino) for his betrayal of Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando). Castellano's original line was "Leave the gun" but drawing from an earlier scene where Clemenza's wife reminds him to bring home some cannoli, he improvised the now famous line "Take the cannoli."

19. Mein Furher, I Can Walk

Peter Sellers as Dr. Strangelove in Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) Director - Stanley Kubrick Nuclear scientist Dr. Merkwürdigliebe or Strangelove (Peter Sellers) was confined to a wheelchair for the entire film - but Sellers decided to spontaneously stand at the very end of the film, take a couple of steps and proclaim, "Mein Führer! I can walk!" In a process known as "retroscripting", Kubrick changed much of the script he co-wrote with Terry Southern to incorporate much of Sellers' improvised dialog, including this now famously unscripted scene from the end of his black satirical comedy.

20. Remembering the Brothers

Saving Private Ryan Moment Saving Private Ryan (1998) Director - Steven Spielberg During a brief break from fighting, Captain Miller (Tom Hanks) sits with Private Ryan (Matt Damon) swapping stories about what it was like back home for them both. The story Damon tells about his brothers and the barn was made up entirely by him during filming. None of the story was part of the original script.

21. You're Gonna Need a Bigger Boat

  Roy Scheider as Police Chief Martin Brody in Jaws Jaws (1975) Director - Steven Spielberg While chumming the waters in an attempt to lure the deadly great white shark within range, Police Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) gets his first look at exactly how massive the killer shark truly is. Stunned, startled and filled with fear he stands up and utters the now famous line to Orca Captain Quint (Robert Shaw) completely off-script, "You're going to need a bigger boat.” Turns out, he was right.

22. I Know

Harrison Ford as Han Solo in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) Director - Irvin Kershner As smuggler-turned-hero Han Solo (Harrison Ford) is about to be encased in carbonite, Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) reveals her love for him. The script called for Leia to say "I love you" to which Solo was supposed to respond with "I love you too". Ford decided that Solo wouldn't say something like that and instead, changed the line to simply "I know."

23. Can You Hear Me Now?

Michael Madsen & Kirk Baltz as Mr. Blonde & Officer Nash in Reservoir Dogs Reservoir Dogs (1992) Director - Quentin Tarantino The script for Tarantino's violent, freshman project called for jewel thief  Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) to torture Officer Nash (Kirk Baltz) by cutting off his ear with a straight razor - however, Tarantino didn't give Madsen any specific direction what to do once the gruesome deed had been done. All of Madsen's lines and actions with the ear were improvised by him.

24. Here's Looking at You Kid

Casablanca unscripted moment Casablanca (1942) Director - Michael Curtiz The scene of Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) putting Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) and Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) on a plane bound for America with the help of Captain Louis Renault (Claude Rains) is chock full of memorable lines but the line listed as 5th in AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes wasn't even part of the original script. According to reports, Bogart said the phrase "Here's looking at you kid" multiple times to Bergman while teaching her to play poker between takes.

25. The Sneeze

Woody Allen as Alvy Singer in Annie Hall Annie Hall (1977) Director - Woody Allen Neurotic Jewish comedian Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) is at a party when his friend passes him a small tin filled with cocaine. As Alvy takes the tin in his hands he has a violent sneeze - sending white powder everywhere. The surrounding actors’ uncontrollable laughter was spontaneous and genuine and Allen decided to leave it in the final cut of the film after it tested well with audiences. So one of the most famous sneezes in cinema history was never actually intended to be part of the final film - it actually occurred during a scene rehearsal.

26. Here's Johnny!

Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance in The Shining The Shining (1980) Director - Stanley Kubrick Wendy Torrance (Shelley Duval) and her son Danny (Danny Lloyd) hide from the deranged novelist Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) in a hotel bathroom. As Jack begins chopping through the door with a fire axe and sticks his face into the splintered opening, he utters a phrase previously made popular by Ed McMahon on The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson - "Here's Johnny!" The line was not part of Kubrick's original screenplay and was improvised by Nicholson.

27. Like Tears in the Rain

Rutger Hauer as Roy Batty in Blade Runner Blade Runner (1982) Director - Ridley Scott As ex-blade runner Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) attempts to "retire" the replicant known as Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer), he finds himself in a precarious position. The battle worn replicant shows mercy on Deckard rescuing him from the edge of the building - only to "die" shortly after giving a moving monologue. As he reminisces about his past he says, "All those moments will be lost in time...," but then Hauer adds the unscripted and philosophical phrase " tears in rain."

28. I'm Walking Here!

Jon Voight & Dustin Hoffman as Joe Buck & Ratso in Midnight Cowboy Midnight Cowboy (1969) Director - John Schlesinger As want-to-be gigolo Joe Buck (Jon Voight) and crippled scam artist Ratso (Dustin Hoffman) cross a street in New York City, a REAL NYC taxi cab driver who ignored all the "Street Closed for Filming" signs drives through the scene. Obviously this wasn't scripted and Hoffman's response and actions were all improvised, in character, as a result.

29. Singing in the Rain

Malcolm McDowell as Alex in A Clockwork Orange A Clockwork Orange (1971) Director - Stanley Kubrick Alex (Malcolm McDowell) breaks into a happy song as he and his "droogs" perform a bit of "ultra-violence" and rape. Reportedly Kubrick filmed this scene several times and wasn't happy with it each time - until he told McDowell to just "do anything he wanted". McDowell decided to belt out "Singing in the Rain" and Kubrick was so pleased with how much better the scene became that he acquired the rights to use the song immediately.

30. You Talking to Me?

Robert De Niro as Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver Taxi Driver (1976) Director - Martin Scorsese When screenwriter Paul Schrader wrote this scene it simply said "Travis talks to himself in the mirror" - there was no specific dialog given. Everything that insomnia-plagued taxi driver Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) says during his faux-conversation was improvised by De Niro on the spot. To this day, whenever someone walks by a mirror they can't help but utter his now famous line "You talking to me?"

31. Hsssss!

Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs The Silence of the Lambs (1991) Director - Jonathan Demme The famous "hssssss" sound made by Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) during his story about eating a liver with "fava beans and a nice Chianti" to FBI agent Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) wasn't in the original script. Apparently it was something Hopkins did during rehearsals to creep out Foster - and Demme decided leaving it in was the best way to creep out his audience too.

32. Drill Sergeant

R. Lee Ermey as Gunnery Sargent Hartman in Full Metal Jacket Full Metal Jacket (1987) Director - Stanley Kubrick Originally, R. Lee Ermey wasn't even cast in the role as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman but after Ermey submitted a tape of himself spewing insults at group of Royal Marines for 15 minutes straight, Kubrick cast him immediately Ermey wrote 150 pages of insults and Kubrick estimated that 50% of the character’s dialog was improvised by the former drill instructor.

32 of the Greatest Unscripted Movie Scenes

Harrison Ford as Han Solo in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back As long as there are movies made then there will be actors improvising lines, actions and entire scenes. We can only hope that they will be as good as the ones we just showcased. If you want to watch some of these scenes, then be sure to check out the excellent video mashup made by the folks over at Mew Lists.



What are some of your favorite unscripted movie scenes? Tell me about them on Twitter - @MoviePaul.


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  1. You left one in by an Oscar winner. Frank Sinatra in From Here to Eternity. The scene is when Maggio is in the bar and uses the olives like dice. Sinatra came up with it because it just seemed to be so much like the character.

  2. I have the Warriors on dvd. The bottles were not in the script David Patrick Kelly found them while they were filming and used them.

  3. Loved, loved,loved this list.

  4. pretty much zero women on the list. thanks.

    • You just know someone out there is going to claim/think that it’s because women never come up with good ad-libbed ideas or they don’t turn out as epic, when it’s just as likely (a) they do but are ignored and/or (b) they do, the idea is used, and it doesn’t get the same fame. Me, I’m glad at least not to be the only one who noticed. Apart from that oversight, the list has many great examples — #1 being my all-time favorite since I was a teen.

  5. nice to meet

  6. Unfortunately, the short delay in the explosion is The Dark Knight was in fact planned beforehand. If you watch the pre-vis of the scene in the behind the scenes clips, you’ll notice that his little shtick with the trigger was not improvised, but in fact part of the scene.

  7. R. Lee Ermey deserved an Oscar for that performance in Full Metal Jacket. While all of these are good, no one sustained such a performance for a whole film, and especially an unknown like Ermey. Semper Fi!

    • I agree that Ermey’s great and unforgettable performance was the highlight of the film and was definitely Oscar worthy. I can’t even count the number of times I have watched it, but unfortunately, he was not in the whole film because about half way through, his character was shot and killed in the men’s room by a clearly unstable and deranged Marine recruit.

  8. Two things to mention from the movie ‘Forrest Gump':

    1) The line, “My name’s Forrest Gump. People call me Forrest Gump,” was apparently ad-libbed by Tom Hanks


    2) The scene where Forrest was wheeling Lt Dan through the streets of New York City was obviously meant to be a tribute to ‘Midnight Cowboy’. The same song was played in the background (‘Everybody’s Talking’ by Harry Nilsson) and Lt Dan yells to a cab driver, “I’m walking here, I’m walking here!”

  9. This is just Shocking

  10. What about in American Pie when Michelle (AKA the band girl) is on top of Jason and says, “Say my name, b!#ch!”
    I though that was add-libbed – at least the “B—-” part – which is what made it so funny!

  11. “group of Royal Marines” This was about the US. Marine Corp, not the Royal Marines, my god you liberals!

    • The article is correct as written. ‘Full Metal Jacket’ was filmed in England. For his demo tape, Ermey apparently rounded up a group of Royal Marines to use as the targets for his tirade. Of course the movie itself was about United States Marines.

  12. Full metal jacket was about the US. Marine Corp. Not the Royal Marines!

  13. Gladiator, Russell Crowe: ‘At my signal, unleash hell.’ was ad-libbed some say.

  14. They didn’t give the beer-throwing guy in Being John Malkovich because they were pleased with the scene. They had to give the guy a raise or lose the scene. Speaking makes you an actor, not an extra. The guy still gets little residual checks too!

  15. “To this day, whenever someone walks by a mirror they can’t help but utter his now famous line “You talking to me?”” – Seriously? You didn’t think that was a bit too ridiculous to add?

    • So negative! I thought this was an interesting article.

  16. #11 is wrong its 40 year old virgin not knocked up

    • Actually, they did it in both movies 😉

  17. Number 32, full metal jacket.
    They were US marines, not Royal marines.

  18. I can’t believe there isn’t a ton more Robin Williams in this list. Aladdin was not able to win Best Screenplay because Williams improvised something like 70% of his lines (and of course, that was the material that was outstandingly funny).

  19. The adlib from Pretty Woman (#7), has always been so obvious that even the first time watching it I always felt it should have been relegated to out takes, since it really takes you outside of the movie. Instead of seeing the characters being playful, I see Richard Gere pranking Julia Roberts, and it just feels so strange to suddenly become aware of the actors as themselves versus the characters they were portraying just moments before.

  20. In Casablanca, the plane was not bound to America but to Lisbon…

  21. Number 13 is technically incorrect, they could only do the shot 1 time so, Heath Ledger was directed to stay in character and shooting wasn’t supposed to stop no matter what. When the Joker was walking away there was supposed to be an explosion but it didn’t go off like it was supposed to so, Ledger fiddled around with the controller and stayed in character until the explosion happened, creating a wonderfully dark and funny moment. If you re-watch the movie you can see when he jumps and flinches when the explosion goes off because he wasn’t expecting it.

  22. Pretty woman was all unscripted crap

  23. That “Hey Malkovich! Think Fast!” scene was hilarious! Lucky for that extra he connected with his throw, though i wonder what John Malkovich really felt about it, in the moment.

  24. One of the greatest movie scenes is the Wyoming moment in Dog Day Afternoon with Pacino and Cazale, it was totally improvised…one of the best American movies with the best actors.

  25. You can now finally make your personal bold statement with Zac Efron Leather Men Jacket. It is a modish yet trendy outfit that is abstracted by our professional men by the spur of the blockbuster movie “17 again”.

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